Friday, October 13, 2006

A Big Brother City

For all the hoopla over NSA spying on suspected terrorists, it's curious this story hasn't generated any talk.

Security and terrorism won't be an issue if Chicago wins the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games because, by that time, there'll be a surveillance camera on every corner, Mayor Daley said Wednesday. "By the time 2016 [rolls around], we'll have more cameras than Washington, D.C. ...

Our technology is more advanced than any other city in the world -- even compared to London -- dealing with our cameras and the sophistication of cameras and retro-fitting all the cameras downtown in new buildings, doing the CTA cameras," Daley said.

"By 2016, I'll make you a bet. We'll have [cameras on] almost every block."

If I lived in the city, I'd be for it.

But I wonder if these tapes can be subpoenaed, for example; in civil court cases. I think that's the case now with our tollway easy pass records.


Cal Skinner 7:33 AM  

I believe you are correct about the ability to subpoena tollway records.

Bill Baar 8:42 AM  

I thought I had read this was happening in courts now.

I listen to educated people tell me Bush is bring fascism to America but they're oblivious to something right out of a Sci Fi film.

These cameras are a trade off between privacy and security I'd be willing to make, but there is a trade-off for sure and it's strange it's overlooked.

Imagine if Bush, or Cheney, or Rove had talked like this... a camera on every American city block....

dan l 9:03 AM  

It is overlooked.

Chicagoans don't care. And those that do, are easily marked for the fringe on either side. Unless they use these cameras to bust me for violating the smoking ban, I'm definitely not worried.

I blogged it here where I essentially say the same thing. Chicagoans don't care, there's no violation of privacy as there's no expectation of privacy in a public place.

That being said - I do want to know who's paying for this. A "camera on every block" (to which I assume Daley means every major thoroughfare) means that there will be cameras in my hood (where there is virtually no crime) which of course is a waste of money. Although certain neighborhoods such as Uptown (the Town Hall district) would benefit from these cameras.

With the CTA's budget shortfall number in tripple digit millions (and I'm sure that's conservative, given the state of disrepair of parts of the older El lines) I'd rather put the money into more meaningful infrastructure, as the Olympic gamble doesn't (at least to me) justify the spending on a system that may or may not work.

Then again, there's 3 things that all Chicagoans know about this town:

1. The Bears will always have a mediocre QB.
2. The cubs will always lose.
3. If something has failed everywhere in the civilized world, King Richard will find a way to make it work.

the Other Anonymous,  9:26 AM  

This Chicagoan does care, Dan.

On the one hand, I agree that a program of video monitoring public spaces for law enforcement purposes doesn't violate privacy because there's really no expectation of privacy in a public space. Moreover, the program has been successful in cleaning (or at least moving) some notorious drug corners.

But there are two concerns. First is that there is a lot of potential for abuse of this program. Dan mentions one scenario, using the cameras to enforce quality of life laws such as the smoking ban (or, perhaps even the foie gras ban). Another scenario is using the cameras for crackdowns on certain types of protected activity (e.g., using cameras to prevent demonstrators from gathering). Today the program may be managed properly; but this is also the city that set up an espionage unit (the notorious Red Squad) in the 1960s.

Secondly, even as a law abiding citizen I am not at all certain I am comfortable living someplace where no public space is free from surveillance. Bill Baar's headline is exactly right: "Big Brother." It seems to me that while there might not be an expectation of privacy in a public space, conversely there is not an expectation that a public space would be under surveillance. It's simply too much power in the hand of the city government. In that sense, this program bothers me more than domestic wiretapping without a warrant.

It's my understanding that the ACLU is in fact looking very closely at this video surveillance, with the hope of working out some protections against abuse of the system.

Ted 10:15 AM  


Yeah, the I-PASS records can be subpoenaed. I saw an IEEE presentation by a guy from TransCore (the company that runs the I-PASS system for the state) last year and he said they have handed over records in cases (and been called upon to help quickly in Amber Alert cases). He said they have the capability of issuing speeding tickets for those who go through two tolls too quickly but they don't enforce it...yet.

Of course, they keep our associated credit card info in an unsecured database that's connected to the internet at their local facility, but the guy unbelievably didn't think this posed a problem.

Anyway, I found this from the article below:

"The Illinois Tollway Authority reported just 20 subpoenas for I-Pass records since 2000. Among these are a man who is fighting for custody of his son who used I-Pass records to prove his ex-wife was never home; a Cook County judge whose I-Pass records were subpoenaed as part of a misconduct probe; and an I-Pass subpoena by the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office, which is investigating a man accused of stealing $10,000 from his employer on Christmas Eve.

Pat Hickey 10:36 AM  

Dan is right on the money; the security cameras are goof-proof ways to increase revenue for the city with taverns, restaurants, motorists, delivery vehicles, and other such targets of opportunity.

Smoking violators and Fois Gras snarfers picked by by the cameras will also figure into the blend.

Remember when Harold Washington discovered the jackpot in parking ticket scofflaws? That was the beginning to the Revenue generating learning curve. Cameras catch red-light violaters and it is a slam-dunk Pay Up, Bub!

It's not Orwellian -its Mr. Potter-villian; Monty Burns-esque! Forbesian! Dough-Ray-Mevian!

NW burbs,  12:24 PM  

Bill, Given that you live in St. Charles and I don't... and that you're a partisan conservative and I'm not... we travel in different circles.

Acknowledging that, in the liberal and progressive circles I do travel in this question is raised time and again: at what price security?

With the NSA having clandestinely (and illegally considering FISA's restrictions) been tapping domestic phones of US citizens without the Constitutionally-required warrants, it's easy enough to imagine the NSA (or any other "agency") keeping tabs on your location via cell signal, I-Pass signal, security cameras, etc.

This is a concern among a majority of Americans, left and right. Some partisans are willing to overlook it out of pure partisanship (witness the Congressional kabuki theater recently regarding warrantless wiretapping). But most are indeed concerned for their privacy.

To directly answer your question: Brian McPartlin of IDOT has said in the past that IDOT records, including I-Pass, can be subpoenaed. (This was during a local political event in which McPartlin was speaking, among others.) So there you have it from the political apointee/horse's mouth.

Routine security and policework is fine with me. It's the steps beyond that, which obviously given the NSA example, are all too easily done that are very concerning to me, and many others with a libertarian streak.

NW burbs,  12:39 PM  

PS: Bill, given the statements made by Bush, Hayden and others about the NSA un-Constitutional warrantless wiretapping ... I (and many other Americans like me) may be considered targets for warrantless tracking and tapping according to their definition of potential targeted "suspected terrorists" or their contactees:

- For my work, I regularly contact people overseas, including in London which clearly has had a great deal of jihadi-terrorist related activity
- I routinely use multiple forms of communication including email, blogs, cell phones and land lines
- I have, like you and other conservatives as I recall, on occasion criticized our president

...Those three factors fit me into the Bush Administration's parameters for domestic eavesdropping, even if solely electronic tracking (as opposed to active humint) -- despite the fact I don't know any terrorists and would in fact turn someone into the authorities if I even had a hunch about them.

You may also fit the parameters.

4Piggybanks2 12:52 PM  

Cameras on every corner.

Cell phones that will tell others where you are.

Tracking systems on cars.

Data bases that share everything anyone ever wanted to know about you.

Genetic studies being done to determine whether or not people have a tendency toward certain diseases - which might chase away insurers - or potentially be used to determine who is allowed to give birth.

And "Chips" in our pets to identify them....

Anyone wondering when mandatory human "chips" will become SOP?

Bill Baar 1:09 PM  

I find it odd people will raise a hoopla about extending access to US courts to enemy combatants captured on the battlefield. (Something we've never done before in our history, even with follow Americans in rebellion and sent to Chicago's own Camp Douglas to languish for the duration in squalor and disease.)

Yet here we've got a greater giving away of privacy via cameras with documents that can be hauled into courts, and no one winces...

The difference, far as partisan conservative me can tell... is the cameras installed by a likable Democrat to fight a concrete threat vs a George Bush using electronic surviallance against terrorists: a seemingly abstract threat... at least abstract enough that it hasn't hit us again for a few years.

Pat Hickey 1:15 PM  


The big difference is Richie ain't lookin' for Osama or any other bad guys; he's looking for quarters on the sidewalks.

What George is looking for God only knows - but the progressives will explain it all to us in one, two, three, four, . . .

cermak_rd 5:02 PM  

I'm glad for the stop light cameras because I'm bothered by bad drivers. I'd like to have more speed enforcement too. I'd wager more people are killed every year by idiotic, reckless drivers than were killed by 9/11. If we can get the 3 offenses against these morons so we can get some peace from them for a year (while their license is suspended) and that can be done without loss of life, I'm all for it.

The anti-crime aspect cameras are OK with me too. I expect no privacy when I'm not in my own home, and if I don't like the subpoena-bility of IPASS records, I can take the battery out of my gadget (or leave it at home) and toss change in the basket like I used to.

The phone thing is more insidious because 1. we are able to fight the mob without having warrantless searches, leading me to believe they're not really necessary and 2. it's so open to abuse on a facility (phones) that are normally considered to be private. Of course, if my life were actually interesting, I would just use Zfone ( to make my calls.

Anonymous,  6:45 PM  

Typical Barr misinformed Red Herring. The cameras and toll way data are bothersome in terms of privacy, and as others have noted there are many progressives who have been very vocal about them, but what Barr fails to note (because it doesn’t fit his tunnel-visioned, jaundiced agenda) is there is an overwhelming amount of judicial precedent in place regarding both.

Warrantless wiretapping, on the otherhand, has had no such imprimatur from the courts. In fact, a good measure of what led to instituting the FISA Court was to prevent the illegal wiretapping abuses that occurred during the Nixon administration, while balancing the need for national security by providing the avenue of a secret court to protect the integrity of cases. Providing no credible argument for the government to wiretap anyone without a warrant.

So, as usual Barr, your premises is wrong, your argument and logic are faulty and your homework is lacking.

Bill Baar 7:51 AM  

So the fact you can subpoenae tollway records (and probably these videos); while NSA stuff is locked up tight for the next 25 or 50 years as highly classified super-secret stuff has no impact on our privacy.

Which is a greater threat to privacy? No red herring.

I'd say all three low threats and trade offs I'd accept.

But the NSA stuff at the absolute bottom of the pile.

Anonymous,  4:29 PM  

The NSA wiretapping is by far the most intrusive because the individual being monitored has no idea they are being monitored, and by bypassing the FISA court anyone can be monitored without any oversight by the courts.

The red herring is your false presumption that many of the same people rightly complaining about the NSA wiretapping are also complaining about the other two intrusions on privacy.

Your willingness to give up your rights and freedoms is yet another reason why the wing-nuts on the right will destroy everything this country stands for if given the opportunity.

Freudian Slip 4:18 PM  

I definitely think this is the way the world will be going. Soon "private" will be dropped from the dictionary as it will no longer exist!

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